Attended the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference earlier this week. It was time well spent. Four themes emerged:
ONE: BUYERS NEED HELP + SAAVY FIRMS ARE RESPONDING
Buyers are looking for sellers that can create more value, faster. At the same time, buyers are also looking for new ways to minimize risks in their businesses. In response, savvy companies appear to be doing three things:
1. rapid experimentation in new sales tactics;
2. ubiquitous sales training and certification with a focus on analyzing business situations (for example: the added attention HP is now giving to finance training for their salespeople); and
3. using metrics as a reality check of what’s really happening. Justin Shriber from Oracle perhaps put it best: “In economic downturns, metrics on the skills of your people and how well they’re executing are key. The ‘score in the game’ can be misleading.” (see Jim Keenan‘s summary of Justin’s remarks here)
TWO: CREATE PREDICTABLE SALES SUCCESS
Many companies are capturing better data on what’s happening with their sales efforts. Those who have enough data are using predictive analytics to invest in sales efforts that will yield the most impact.
Dell, for instance, gave a great example of how they’re using predictive analytics to help Reps contact the right buyers at the right times (in regards to the right issues). As a result, they’ve added roughly $250M in new pipeline.
Hubspot is inspecting and analyzing their data to inform practices. Click-thru rates are peaking when subscriptions are freshest. It’s a caution against spamming your lists.
They’re using regression analyses to identify calling tactics — differentiated by account attributes — that let reps right-size the efforts they invest when trying to make contact with prospects. Connecting in larger firms, for instance, requires more calls than small firms. With a little science, firms are squeezing better results from their sales practices.
THREE: SKILL + COACHING MATTERS
Lots of talk of the value of coaching. Less talk of instances where it’s occurring and the impacts it’s having on sales results. May be just too early to report for many. Intriguing that salespeople, themselves, see the need. As Keith Eades noted, a recent ASTD study found that 95.9% of salespeople see continuous learning as key to their success.
In the meantime, much talk of rigorous selection, training during on-boarding, learning from practice, and sales coaching. Saavy firms are facilitating learning and coaching by creating online communities. Peer-to-peer collaboration in sales is one of the goals. HP’s an example.
FOUR: THE PERSONAL TOUCH WINS
Everyone seems to agree on the value of great buyer experiences. Are such experiences our norm? At the conference, many complained they met great people, saw great products, yet felt victimized by poor sales practices. One prospective buyer I talked with, for instance, found that very few vendors had much interest in her situation.
On the other hand, many vendors did a great job of communicating, passionately, the functional spectacle of their products. But buyers expect and need better. I met one interesting executive, but he followed up by having one of his account execs call me to see if I wanted to learn about their product. Surprised and disappointed, I gracefully declined.
Everyone is trying to figure out ways to automate the sales cycle, but companies that can keep a personal touch, from what I heard and experienced, will win more business.
My thanks to those presentors whose remarks and conversations shaped the above (with links to their twitter handles, where available): Justin Shriber (Oracle), Mark Roberge (HubSpot), Todd McCormick (Pgi/iMeet), Greg Tavalsky (IBM), Sean Mulvihill (Clairmail), Tom Kahl (GlobalEnglish), Andrew Somosi (Lattice Engines), Brian Cohen (Hewlett-Packard), John Golden (Huthwaite), Leslie Stretch (Callidus), and Keith Eades (Sales Performance International). The wisdom is theirs. The mistakes, if any, are mine.